A Forgotten History: Darien Andreu wins award for focus on Minorcan Heritage

By Kaiden Mullins

St. Augustine, Florida, is one of the most historic cities in America. It’s rich in culture and history and is known for its Spanish influence. But most tourists who come through the historic town and learned about the Spanish culture often miss a key part of St. Augustine’s history that often goes unmentioned. 

Darien Andreu, a historian, preservationist and professor at Flagler College, recently won the Women in the Arts Award for preserving this Minorcan heritage and history in St. Augustine. 

“I’m surprised I won; I’m not a painter or a published poet,” Andreu said, but her efforts to preserve the Minorcan history in St. Augustine have proved well deserving of this award. 

Andreu was curious about her lineage because of her interest in the representation of Minorcans, which she found through literary connections with people such as Stephen Vincent Benét and Ralph Waldo Emerson. Because of this, she found out she was Minorcan through her father’s side.

This piqued her interest in preserving and drawing attention to Minorcan history. It made her ask why the Minorcans are unknown, unrecognized, or overlooked in St. Augustine despite their extensive influence on the city’s history. 

In 1768, 1,403 colonists came to Florida from Minorca, an Island in the Mediterranean Sea, as Andrew Turnball’s indentured servants. They worked on his plantation in New Smyrna, and when they fulfilled their years, but were rejected for release from their contracts, they left and walked three days to St. Augustine, where they sought asylum from the then-British governor despite not knowing any English. 

Nearly 1,000 of these workers died due to disease, leaving only 400 Minorcans left. They still managed to remain in St. Augustine throughout history despite, over time, switching from Spanish to British and then American control. Now, they have become a relatively sizeable ethnic group compared to before; more than 26,000 live in St. Johns County.

Minorcans have influenced many famous historic sites in St. Augustine, such as the Markland House, the St. Augustine Lighthouse and the Llambias House. So why does nobody know that many of these buildings and monuments are named after or contain Minorcan history? 

“Although the Minorcans came to Florida as indentured servants, they were seen as slaves, so many didn’t talk about their Minorcan heritage,” Andreu said. 

This caused the history of the Minorcans to be overlooked because while many knew they were Minorcan, they didn’t discuss it or embrace their culture over time, leading them to be weeded out by all the cultural groups that arrived in St. Augustine. 

Andreu started the Minorcan Studies Project four years ago to recognize the Minorcan impact and history in St. Augustine. She hopes to leave behind the stigma of the Minorcans being enslaved to remember and embrace the Minorcan heritage and its cultural impact on the history of St. Augustine. 

Uncovering the Minorcans’ impact on St. Augustine is essential to the history. Culture and history are intertwined, and the Minorcan customs and values have significantly impacted the city. 

Andreu related their impacts to the Cajuns in Louisiana. Their culture is celebrated through festivals and parades such as Mardi Gras, a four to eight-week event. 

Although many landmarks throughout St. Augustine recognize the Minorcan impact, they are still seen to be Spanish-related by tourists because, on tours, they don’t explain the unique Minorcan history. 

Through her efforts, Andreu hopes to share the history and impacts of the Minorcans through literature so her heritage isn’t forgotten, but rather remembered for its influence on the culture and history of St. Augustine.

To do this, she works with others to highlight Minorcan literary works and authors by hosting a writer’s symposium and other events related to celebrating the Minorcan culture so she can inform and draw attention to the history. 

Now that work, as well as her many contributions to literature, have been recognized with her recent award.

Every year, the ROWITA Award recognizes outstanding women in the arts who have profoundly influenced the artistic environment of St. Johns County. Community members submit nominations of women they feel have made significant contributions to the arts. ROWITA recognized her for preserving Minorcan heritage and civil rights history, leadership of the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Society and her work appearing in Princeton Arts Review, Apalachee Quarterly, Kaleidoscope, and Cultures.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Be the first to comment on "A Forgotten History: Darien Andreu wins award for focus on Minorcan Heritage"

Leave a comment